1. Have a clear out! Is your PC full of half-finished stories or poems that didn’t quite make the grade? Read through them. Can they be salvaged or re-written? You might be surprised what you find and ‘tidying’ is very therapeutic. (But limit yourself to an hour or so: don’t use it as an excuse for procrastinating!)
3. Keep a dream diary every day for a month. Put a pen and notebook by the side of your bed and write your dreams down the moment you wake up. Who knows what treasures you might unearth from your subconscious? Writer Stephen King claimed a dream he had on a flight from New York to London inspired the plot of his book – and film – ‘Misery‘
4. Start a ‘Gripes and Moans’ file. If anything or anyone annoys you, write it down. If it irritates you, the chances are it will irritate others. By writing it down, you’ll get it off your chest and who knows, you might end up with something you can turn into a reader’s letter or even an article.
5. If you live in or around Warwick, check out the poetry workshops on offer from Nine Arches Press. The first one on 29th January, entitled ‘NATURE’, ‘will focus mainly on creating characters, developing techniques and writing in new voices, and aims to increase your poetic confidence.’
6. Enter the ‘Hippocrates Prize’ (closing date: 31st January 2011) for a poem on a medical subject. Unusual this one, in that as well as the ‘open’ category, there is a category only open to NHS employees (former or current) and UK health students.
7. Read one of the Costa Category Award Winners or maybe even all five and choose your winner before the judges’ choice of Costa Book of The Year is announced on 25th January 2011.
8. Write a murder mystery story in less than 7,500 words and submit it by 31st January and you could win a state-of-the art laptop and a best-seller writing course, in The Independent’s competition. It’s free to enter and the closing date is 31st January 2011.
9. Open a dictionary at random four times and jot down the first word you see. Then write something that includes all of your words. It’s not as mad as it may sound. When the brain is forced to make connections, it’s amazing what you can come up with. Last time I did this with one of my classes, our words were: ‘antidote’, ‘malaria’, ‘zinc’ and ‘cater’. And the resulting stories and poems were some of the best the group had produced all term!
10. If you’re feeling flush, register for the Oxford Literary Festival’s Creative Writing Course (2nd – 7th April 2011). If you enrol before 31st January 2011 you can save yourself £50 on the (wait for it) £1460 fee. And if that’s a little pricey for you, then have a look at the Festival brochure anyway – and, like me – just dream!